OPINION: Things are different today, if memory serves correctly

A postcard of Canatara Park Beach, circa 1950s, before the arrival of paved parking lots, lifeguard building and other amenities. Dave Burwell Collection, Sarnia Historical Society

Marg Johnson

Recently we had my two sisters and their husbands over for a turkey dinner. My dearly beloved had actually found a turkey roll and we’d been saving it for a special occasion.

It was a fun evening, but also provided a shock.

As I child I had endured countless nights around the dinner table, bored, listening to my mom and dad go on and on about who had died and who they were related to. “Remember that time when…?

Yet there we were, reminiscing about our childhood. We had become our parents.

My husband and I, with kids far flung around the globe, find ourselves “remembering” a life that was problem-free: Playing hide ‘n seek on the Nature Trail; sliding down slides in Canatara Park that burned your backside in summer and froze it in winter; riding bikes way down Confed to my Aunt Helena’s for a visit; spending recess skating on an ice rink at Bridgeview Public that Mr. Szertzema watered every evening; walking and later biking to and from school. And how you HAD to be home by 4:30 “or else.”

Looking back, it all seems so “Andy of Mayberry,” a life full of friends that you literally stood on the back stoop and “called” on.

We look back and think, “Wow, it was so much better than what kids have now.”

Children no longer play outside until the streetlights come on. We hesitate to drink from a fountain, let alone from the hose in the backyard. Walking along the beach we search for broken glass.

When did we become so afraid – so cautious – always on the lookout? As if there’s a boogie man ready to destroy what’s yours.

My wise husband informed me that Socrates had described the children of his era, and guess what? Children haven’t changed.

So, it begs the question: What has changed our world so much that we no longer see care-free children running in packs from house to house, and hiding behind trees on the Nature Trail?

Frankly, I’m too old and stiff to play “kick the can” around the house, or hide and seek under bushes. But, as my parents, and theirs before them, I find myself longing for that quiet, peaceful sense of belonging.

That probably explains why so many “seniors” can be seen driving slowly through Canatara Park or down older city streets, pausing in their cars outside of a particular house.

It’s their way of affirming the past as they remember it. See, I didn’t dream all that coz there’s our old house, and there’s the tree where Jimmy fell and broke his arm.

Do you remember that?

Sarnia’s Marg Johnson is a retired Child & Youth Worker who formerly worked with behaviour children as an educational assistant at the York Catholic District School Board.